As the House completes its eighth week of session, the month of March has officially arrived. There is one week left in this scheduled 60-day legislative session.

At this point, a number of bills are in what is known as ‘conference.’ The House and Senate will often pass legislation that is similar, but not exactly the same. In order for a bill to go to the Governor for his consideration, it must be exactly the same. When differences exist, the House and Senate appoint several legislators–usually three from each chamber–to hash out the differences and come up with a final version of the bill known as a ‘conference report.’ The conference report receives an up or down vote on the floor and cannot be amended. If the conference report is rejected, a new conference report can be drafted for further consideration.

In the final week of session, we in the House will be voting on a few additional bills while also reviewing a number of conference reports. We also expect a conference report for the state budget to be produced and voted on. You can expect an update on that report in next week’s email update.

I hope that you continue to find these updates helpful and informative.

Legislation Update

Labor Trafficking

I am pleased to report that my legislation HB 633 passed the Senate unanimously! This bill, as introduced, would create a standalone statute in the Code of Virginia that criminalizes labor trafficking. Such statute already exists for sex trafficking, but labor trafficking is only illegal on the federal level. That means that when local law enforcement comes across cases of suspected labor trafficking, they must hand the case over to federal prosecutors for consideration. Justice inevitably moves slower at the federal level. The bill was amended significantly in the Senate, but it retains its original purpose of providing local prosecutors with the necessary authority to prosecute labor trafficking cases.

I will keep you updated on this important bill.

Skill Games

My office has received many calls and emails regarding skill games. These games are similar to slot machines and are found in convenience stores and truck stops throughout the state. Over 80,000 skill game machines exist in Virginia. They are neither legal or illegal, and are thus left in a gray area. Many small businesses have asked for these games to be legalized to provide an additional source of revenue while those opposed are concerned about the potential for an increase in crime.

Legislation was introduced this session that would legalize, regulate, and tax skill games. The conference report for House Bill 590 would set a cap for the number of games (4 per convenience store, 10 per truck stop), regulate the games under the purview of the ABC and Lottery, and tax their profits at 25%. An earlier version of this bill included the requirement that a locality hold a referendum or adopt a local ordinance prior to those games being installed.

Ultimately, because the conference report lacked the requirement for either a local referendum or ordinance, I voted no. On a matter in which many people have voiced strong opinions and in which there may be significant regional differences, I believe each locality should have an individual say.

I will add that many people reaching out in opposition to HB 590 viewed a no vote as a vote to stop gambling in Virginia. That is not true. Gambling and casinos will continue to exist irrespective of this bill’s success or failure.

The conference report did narrowly pass the House, and the Senate is expected to consider the matter next week. I suspect we will see this matter again in some form.

In the News

Here are a few news articles from this past week that you may find of interest:

I’ll close this week’s newsletter on a lighter note. I’m a strong believer in having a bit of fun in everything you do. That applies to law making, too.

This week, the House and Senate faced off in our annual basketball game that raised funds for VCU Massey Cancer Center. The House beat the Senate!! But more importantly, we raised over $100,000 for cancer research.

IMG 5115

It is an honor to represent you in the House of Delegates. If I can be of service to you or your family, please let me know.

Mike Cherry